December 6, 2021

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What exactly do you do at climate conferences

The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference will begin in Glasgow on October 31: in short COP26. The epidemic was delayed by one year, which is an important event to advance Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but following it is a bit complicated. As is the case in The state of European institutionsThere are countless members and acronyms whose meaning escapes those who do not participate in the work. It is also difficult to understand the meaning of diplomatic strategies, because it involves a large number of countries (196) with different interests.

Finally, since each annual conference is part of a process that began nearly thirty years ago, it is not easy to judge whether, individually, it has been a success or a failure: given the nature of climate change, the complexity and “the scale of the reforms needed to confront it, the The results of a single conference are far from immediate and clear.

A starting point for trying to understand something could be knowing exactly what is being done at climate conferences, who is participating in them and how the negotiations are going on.

First of all, the name: COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” and the Parties are the countries that have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, more commonly referred to by the English acronym UNFCCC, an institution born in 1992 to combat climate change at the global level. The Conference of the Parties is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and, with the exception of 2020, has been held annually since 1995 when it was organized in Berlin (COP1).

The main protagonists of the COP are the delegations of the governments of the countries of the world, which include politicians and their expert advisors on various topics. Then there are representatives of the UNFCCC secretariat and different types of observers, who may be members of NGOs or IGOs, or of various UN agencies; Finally, journalists. In total they participate in COPs About 25 thousand people on averageIt is the largest annual meeting of the United Nations.

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Federico Brocchieri, member of the Technical Negotiating Group for Italy and the European Union explains: “Contrary to what one might think, negotiations do not always take place in public rooms during conferences with delegates of all the countries present and the Council on them.” Union and Popularity, in the short article Climate Negotiations. There are always at least two plenary sessions on conference days – from Program 13 of COP26 – one at the beginning of the proceedings and one at the end: in addition to state delegations, observers and journalists can participate.

But the really important things happen at smaller meetings, and reporters aren’t allowed to attend. These sessions with fewer participants can be of three types. Those closest to plenary sessions in scope and formality are the so-called “contact groups”, which are open to government representatives and observers (with some exceptions). Each contact group is dedicated to a specific topic on the negotiation agenda and is chaired by two participant chair Which were selected from among the country representatives: one among the countries included in Annex I of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that is, those that were considered in 1992 to be “developed”, and one among the others, those with economies “in progress” development “according to the standards of 1992.

It is not easy to summarize the topics to which each contact group is dedicated, because they are all very complex and technical. Wanting to give some examples, and to simplify a bit, there is always a contact group that deals with assessments of the impact of measures taken globally to implement the UNFCCC, and since 2013 there has been one. One deals with the consequences of climate policies on the labor market and other economic aspects.

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In contact groups, the modalities and timing of negotiations are decided, but the real discussions take place in informal consultations and in informal and informal consultations, which are two types of meetings with fewer participants. Brocchieri always explains that “the reason for preferring informal contexts to address complex issues lies in the greater secrecy of these sessions, which often see the absence of observers and the presence of a limited number of delegates”: “In short, it is possible to speak more frankly.”

In informal consultations, co-facilitators absent from informal consultations are selected: the latter, which is not even reported in the formal program of meetings, is the context in which the most contentious issues can be resolved, those that cause negotiations to stagnate, and open up when they are not Find a solution in informal consultations. Usually about ten people participate. Once an agreement is reached, it is communicated to the co-facilitators of the informal consultations, who then relay it to the relevant contact group co-chairs. These, in turn, communicate all decisions made at the restricted meetings to the COP President – the Secretary of State hosting the conference – or to other administrative figures.

Resolutions become official only when they are approved in the final plenary session.

In general, the decision-making process is not linear, and sometimes some decisions are made by small groups of delegates who meet in a corridor, or in bilateral meetings between heads of state or government.

During the COP, side events are also organized, such as workshops with experts on climatic, economic and social issues, or presentations and exhibitions of the experiences of individual countries or observing organizations: they have the function of helping country delegates get an idea of ​​the conference topics.

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Among the presentations and exhibitions, some are held in the so-called “blue zone”, the physical space that houses the COP and is accessible only to authorized persons; Alternatively, other events take place in the “green zone,” a nearby space that is also open to the public. To give an example, one of the events of Green Zone COP26 (which can also be followed on YouTube) will be an explanation of the effects of climate change on the deep ocean organized by the Schmidt Institute of Oceans, a research institution dealing with oceanography.

The two most famous COPs are those during which the most important international climate agreements were concluded: COP3, which took place in 1997 and produced the text of the Kyoto Protocol, and COP21, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Not all COPs have been issued with such relevant agreements, but Naturally, this should be the case: to reach a significant agreement, extensive work is required from initial negotiations that take place over many different COPs and intermediate meetings with fewer participants and are often of a technical nature.

In fact, it took three COP meetings to make the Kyoto Protocol; For the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, nine. These agreements are also designed to “last a long time”: decisions made with the Kyoto Protocol relate to the period between 2008 and 2012, then extended to 2020, while the Paris Agreement horizon was for 2030. This year’s COP aims to discuss the latest commitments of individual countries To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and methods of evaluating their application, as well as their effectiveness, specifically in accordance with what was decided in Paris six years ago.